Waiting Times for Public Services

Public Service and Administration Minister recently announced that standard waiting times for services would soon be made public. The Ministry has been working feverishly with line departments to develop standards for waiting times that will be applied initially to pension pay-out points, hospital queues and vehicle licensing centres. It is further envisaged that these standards will be made available to the public so that the members of the public can know in advance the level of service they should expect.

The Minister also explained that service delivery failures especially at local government level were primarily caused by the lack of adequately skilled public servants. To this end, the Ministry is to embark on a capacity building programme to train public servants to operate at the envisaged level of performance.
While these and other initiatives are admirable in their own right, they fail to address some of the fundamental attributes that public servants should possess.
In his paper ‘Good Governance in ensuring sound public financial management, Professor David Fourier, of the University of Pretoria states that effective corporate governance in the public sector means that public officials/ servants must demonstrate compliance with the following six characteristics:

  • They are composed of people with the knowledge, ability and commitment to fulfil their responsibilities.
  • They understand their purpose and whose interests they represent.
  • They understand the objectives and strategies of their Departments.
  • They understand what constitutes reasonable information for good government and do everything possible to obtain it.
  • Once appropriately informed, they are prepared to ensure that the Department’s objectives are met and that operational performance is never less than satisfactory.
  • They fulfil their accountability obligations to those whose interests they do represent by regularly and adequately reporting on their Department’s activities and effectiveness.

Knowledge and commitment is only one attribute and sadly the only one of the six attributes mentioned that is addressed by public sector entities. Communication to all staff members about their responsibilities must be an ongoing and consistent part of all senior management communication to the staff including for everyday challenges. Information can be made available through informal talks, staff meetings, newsletters and intranet articles, performance appraisal discussions as part of individual development plans and regular discussions about policy and programme development.

Staff responsible for decision making, programme implementation and financial management should be provided with ongoing training and support given the evolving nature of the legislative framework within which they operate. The level of training and support needs to be match with the level of responsibility given to the staff member taking into account the complexity and risk of the decision-making context.

Training should also cover the Public Sector entity’s values and Code of Conduct. These define the standards of behaviour required of the staff member and cover issues related to governance such as recognising conflicts of interest, maintaining confidentiality, complying with the law and entity directions, and reporting unlawful or unethical behaviour through proper channels.

Good governance is enacted through the behaviours and actions of staff at all levels as they contribute to the efficient, effective and ethical delivery of their organisation’s goals.

For assistance in training and advice relating to Governance, Strategy and Leadership please go to www.sinkorswim.co.za or contact us on roger@sinkorswim.co.za.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: